Most people are scared of dying and when their time comes to leave, they are frightened and unwilling to let go. Some however, face even a brutal death with bravery…and a smile. Here are some of those who greeted their final exit with no fear.
In 2007, Majid and Hossein Kavousifar were publicly hanged to death in Tehran for killing prominent judge Hassan Moghaddas, whom they believed to be corrupt. They were executed at the same place where the murder took place, and in front of a large picture of the judge. When his nephew Hossein looked distressed, Majid waved to him and smiled at him.
In 2006, the Ministry of Defense of Finland declassified some photos of World War II. One of these was a photo of an unknown Soviet intelligence officer who stood smiling seconds before he was shot dead in Rukajarvi, East Karelia. Finland, which was allied with Germany and warring with the USSR was involved on the blockade of Leningrad, which led to the starvation of 1 million civilians.
This photo shows Georges Blind smiling at a Nazi firing squad in October 1944. Blind was a member of the French Resistance and the Germans had been squashing occupied territory resistance brutally. However, in Blind’s case, this turned out to be a mock execution as the Nazis had hoped it would get him to talk. He was sent to a concentration camp and marked for termination. He died in November 1944.
Zuikaku (which means ‘auspicious crane’) was a Japanese aircraft carried whose aircraft took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The carrier was finally sunk in the Battle of Cape Engano. On 25 October, 1944, hit by 7 torpedoes and 9 bombs, the ship sank, killing Rear Admiral Takeo and 842 crew members. As the naval ensign was lowered, the crew members stayed onboard to salute it. They shouted “Banzai” a short form of ‘Tennouheika Banzai’ (Long Live His Majesty the Emperor).
On May 22, 1942, Stjepan Filipovic was publicly hanged to death by a Nazi unit. His defiant words on the gallows were, “Death to fascism! Freedom to the people!”, which went on to become the official slogan of the entire resistance movement. Filipovic was part of the Yugoslavian National Liberation Army, which was fighting against the Axis forces. In 1949 Filipovic was declared a National Hero of Yugoslavia.
A kamikaze pilot, Corporal Yuiko Araki was merely a day away from his suicide mission when he was photographed holding a puppy. His orders were to attack an American naval group near Okinawa, Japan, which he did on May 27, 1945. It is believed that Araki crashed his plane into the USS Braine, killing 66 people and crippling the destroyer for the rest of the war. He left a note for his parents which read: “I have no regrets. I just go forward on my path.”
Pernass was executed for being a spy by US military police in Belgium on 23 December, 1944. Dressed in US Army uniforms, some German soldiers attempted to create confusion in the rear of the Allied lines. Unknown to the Germans, the Americans knew of this plan. Pernass, who was the driver of the jeep, was captured along with other German soldiers, given an military trial and executed by firing squad.
Not much is known about Fortino Samano except that he was a Zapatista lieutenant and counterfeiter, The Zapatista Army of National Liberation is a revolutionary leftist group based in Chiapas, Mexico, and is made up of mostly rural indigenous people. This photo of Samano was shot right before he was executed. He is casually smoking a cigar while facing the firing squad. It was reported that he himself gave the order to fire.
Two days after the start of the German invasion of Poland, a series of killings occurred in and around the Polish town of Bydgoszcz, where a sizable German minority lived. These killings were termed ‘Bloody Sunday’. This group of people show a wide range the emotions: the first from the left looks anguished, the next one looks defiant, the last one looks resigned…but the man third from the left is smiling at his executioners. He knows he is sure to die as others had been executed before him, but he faces his end with a smile.